Dog Food Manufacturers Adding Chicken and Barley to Premium Diets

If you THINK you’re feeding “Salmon and Sweet Potato”, or, you THINK you’re feeding “Lamb and rice”. I have some bad news:

To make foods cheaper, the major brands are putting CHICKEN IN EVERYTHING.

SO, it’s a rare food these days which DOES NOT have chicken, or chicken fat in it.

AND IN FACT, there are Salmon and Sweet Potato diets that have LESS ACTUAL SWEET POTATO in them than yeast!!

My point?

You have to read the bag. You just gotta.

If you’re not avoiding chicken in the dog’s diet, then probably this doesn’t even matter. But if you’re looking for a diet that AVOIDS chicken in favor of lamb, salmon, or some other more wholesome protein source (even eggs) then READ THE BAG.

Even Wilderness, Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo has started adding hidden chicken to the diets even though they’re LABELED as Salmon and Sweet Potato, or similar. These companies don’t warrant that their “Salmon diets” are ONLY Salmon, but a LOT of the time, people switch to a Salmon diet to avoid chicken. Only to find out that a top end diet like Blue Buffalo Salmon – is actually a lot of chicken!

Chicken is the third ingredient in this premium “salmon” diet.

And ALSO in sweet potato diets? There may be Sweet Potato in the diet, but you’ll ALSO find tons of Barley, rice, Lentils, Peas. In many cases, MORE BARLEY than Sweet potato – but it’s STILL sold as a Sweet potato diet!!!!   WHY USE SWEET POTATOES for the carbohydrate fraction, and then substitute a GRAIN? It’s deceptive. I don’t admire it at all.


IF YOUR PET HAS AN ADVERSE (itching, licking) REACTION in their feet, skin, or ears, or similar as a result of CHICKEN –  in the diet it’s not ‘enough’ if they ADD CHICKEN FAT as the lipid, or CHICKEN BY PRODUCTS (heads, beaks and feet) as the “Glucosamine”.

Purina, among several others, considers chicken heads, beaks, combs, appendages, and cartilage to “count” as “Glucosamine”. Ummmm. No.

Costco blew that right out of the water. They did the research and now they add REAL Glucosamine to their affordable “Signature” Kirkland line. I like it quite a lot.

But there are other good foods that have ACTUAL Salmon, and ACTUAL sweet potato. Wanna know what’s funny? I went to Kroger at Parkaire the other night. I examined EVERY bag of food because it was time to get GUS some more food. (He’s my fiancées Shih Tzu)

I found DISAPPOINTING ingredients in a LOT of the foods. Wait. Kroger’s not bad. The feed manufacturers, are.

Truly NONE of the high dollar diets were actually worth it. MANY of the high-end diets were “cut” with Chicken and Barley. Sold as Lamb and Rice. Salmon and Sweet Potato.

What was Good?

This diet contains chicken. However, it ALSO contains *actual* sweet potatoes in a measurable, significant amount.

I found “ABOUND” Salmon and Sweet Potato *GRAIN FREE* to be pretty-well formulated (It has chicken in it) and a fair price so that’s what Gus is getting now.The third ingredient is Sweet Potatoes which is what we really wanted.

BUT BE CAREFUL: They have a little bag of “Abound” Salmon and Sweet Potato but it’s got mostly grain in it. And hardly any sweet potato. Bummer. So you have to get the bigger ~15 pound bag “Grain Free” to get ACTUAL sweet potatoes instead of Barley-filler.

I went over to the Costco website and their Salmon and Sweet Potato diet is good, too but they’re so dang far.

So what are you supposed to do?

Dog food ingredients-lists have to put the ingredients in order of “AMOUNT” of the stuff in the diet. So if the first listed ingredient is salmon, then it means that salmon outweighs all the other components. Then the second ingredient occurs in smaller quantity. But still MORE than the third ingredient.

So for example if you saw Peas as the second ingredient and Sweet Potatoes as the seventh ingredient: It means there are more peas than sweet potatoes and that the next six ingredients are MORE than sweet potatoes.

THIS version of the “Abound” dogfood has Peas as the second ingredient and this diet has LESS sweet potato in it, than fat OR flavorings. About as much as calcium.


A good diet would look something like this: Salmon, Sweet Potatoes, Oatmeal, Egg, Rice, Pumpkin, Menhaden meal, and down the list. No such diet exists.

If you wanted to home-cook a healthy diet for your dog, I really like this document about an egg and sweet potato diet.

If you want to feed a raw diet, look at this library of information including balanced recipes. A book on feeding raw, free to use.


Author: Dr. Erik Johnson
Dr. Erik Johnson is the author of several texts on companion animal and fish health. Johnson Veterinary Services has been operating in Marietta, GA since 1996. Dr Johnson graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Dr Johnson has lived in Marietta Georgia since 1976.